Braeden speaks almost as soon as Stiles slips inside Lydia’s office with the coffee orders. “How do you like working here?”
Stiles is mid stride when he realizes she means him, not one of the other three people in the room. A stuttered laugh escapes his throat when he notices everyone is staring at him. Laura, Boyd, and Braeden are all giving him speculative looks as Lydia sits behind her desk with a cheshire grin on her face. She's barely five years older than him, but Stiles is scared of her and all her beautiful, fierce glory. Under all that unexpected attention, he almost drops the cupholder of coffees he was bringing into her office.
“Me?” Stiles catches the coffees before scalding liquid goes all over the place. “I mean, uh, I like it.” He tries to figure out why Braeden is asking, while he hands out the coffees. He answers carefully, bobbing his head. “It's good, you know. Getting to see how things work in a magazine.” He’s an office assistant; there is only so much excitement that sort of job inspires.
He works as Lydia Martin's personal assistant at an upscale werewolf erotica magazine called Howl . He likes the job well enough. Lydia is scary and methodical, but she doesn't call him on his off hours or ask him to do anything really humiliating. Sometimes he gets cool castoff gifts from her, like that newest generation iPad last month. Still, being outright asked by the head photographer how he feels about his job is a little disconcerting.
Braeden smirks. “Would you like a little more hands on experience?”
Stiles narrows his eyes at her tone, looking from person to person. They all look rather invested in his answer. “Sure?”
Boyd exchanges a look with Lydia while Laura keeps scrutinizing him. More than Lydia, Stiles is intimidated by Laura Hale. She is Vice President of the company. He tries and fails to refrain from fidgeting with the edge of his pants pocket.
“Great. So Lydia can handle the contract and you can come downstairs and let me take a few photos of you.” Braeden smiles brightly, sounding as if it’s a done deal.
“Uh, I'm sorry, what?” Stiles runs a hand through his hair. “Pictures?” He laughs nervously.
Laura stands up and stalks towards him. The whole werewolf thing definitely works for her. Stiles feels a little like prey. She circles around him slowly, a small frown on her lips.
“We don't even know what he looks like under there.” She reaches out but stops just before touching him. Lowering her hand again, Laura sighs. “I guess it could work.”
Realization dawns and Stiles stutters. “You mean like pictures pictures. For the magazine.”
Laura doesn't roll her eyes, but it seems like it's taking a lot for her not to. “Yes. The model that was booked today came down with chickenpox, of all things, and we are on a very tight schedule. I'm waiting to hear back from a couple potentials, this would solve the problem if you agree.”
Stiles applied for this position because he needed the money and because he had a background in journalism that he didn't really have any idea how to utilize. An idle hope of being surrounded by hot models all day, human and werewolf alike, was icing on the cake. The reality though, is every photoshoot happens behind closed doors. Lydia handles the legal side of things, so he has even less of a chance to meet the scorchingly hot men and women who got paid to take their clothes off for the camera.
The prospect of being one of those people, if only as a one-time deal, is intriguing.
“Yeah. Yeah, okay.” Stiles fumbles with the placket on his shirt, then pauses. “Uh, do I have to strip here?”
Boyd chuckles while everyone else smiles, amused. “No, man. Laura is just being rude because she is panicking about getting everything done under deadline.”
“Of course you don't have to strip. You aren't under contract yet,” Lydia hisses at Laura, rather than assuring Stiles. When Laura scoffs and backs off, Lydia pulls her coffee closer. To Stiles, she says, “If you are actually willing to do this, I need you to print off a single day contract. I can go over it with you, if you need, and then you can sign it.”
Braeden stands up, biker boots thudding on the hardwood floor when she walks over to him. “Oh, I like this. He pinks up so pretty.” She winks at him, giving him a once over before heading out of the office.
Over her shoulder, Braeden says, “See you in a few minutes, Bambi.”
Stiles knows his cheeks must be splotchy from the attention. They heat further after Braeden's words.
“Oh, so this is happening, like, now.” Stiles gestures maybe a little wildly. When he catches the skeptical look on Laura's face, he clears his throat and wrangles his limbs in order.
“Yeah, so I'm going to go print that contract then.” He starts backing up to get out of here before Laura puts the kibosh on the whole idea.
His tablet is on the impersonal desk outside Lydia's office. It takes no time to find the contract she requested, print it off, and sign it. He skims the wording, but he's read over it before out of boredom. Stiles handles so many documents in a day, that they all sort of blur together when he files. There's nothing striking or outrages outlined in the one he signs.
After that, handing it over for Lydia’s approval is simple. She smiles at him with some warmth, pride even. Then he gets directed down to get prepped. Terrible and wonderful images flash across his mind when Lydia says that . Turns out he's just being sent down to get his hair artfully disheveled and some light powder put on his face to keep it from shining too much.
The makeup artist’s name is Kira and she is sweet. Stiles feels like she's the most approachable person he's met in the six months he's been employed here.
“Oh, gosh, your moles are so cute!” She exclaims for the second time since he sat down in front of her.
Stiles’ grin is lopsided. He doesn't think he's had so much detailed attention paid to his physical attributes maybe ever. “Thanks? Grew them myself.”
Kira laughs. It makes Stiles relax, forget that in about fifteen minutes he'll be standing around in his skivvies, getting photographed for a magazine and website that is seen by hundreds of thousands of people. Well, he almost forgets.
While Kira is misting his hair with water to loosen up the product he used this morning, he asks, “It isn't ridiculous that I am doing this, right?”
Studying him in the mirror, Kira tugs tufts of his hair this way and that. She answers, “You're cute, potentially hot. I mean, you've seen the photos before, right?” When Stiles nods, she shrugs. “Then you know they've had models like you before.”
“Yeah, of course.” Stiles scoffs.
He's seen the lithe guys who arch their backs and necks, who smolder and pout. A lot of them are slender like him, and Stiles has kept in decent shape. He isn't bad looking. However, Stiles isn't so sure he can pull off a sultry, teasing look. He'll try. Even if Laura ends up not liking the photos, Stiles still gets paid, per contract. No harm, no foul for him.
Kira checks the watch on her wrist, tiny frown on her lips. Swiveling the chair around so Stiles is facing her, she says, “Don't over think it, okay? They won't make you do anything you aren't comfortable with. Braeden is really good at what she does and she'll make you look awesome. You'll be fine!” She ends her little pep talk with a bro punch to Stiles’ shoulder.
It actually hurts a little.
“Ow,” he complains, grateful for her open countenance.
Cooing an apology, Kira rubs at the place she just hit. “Sorry, sorry. Uh, you need to get over to wardrobe now. Good luck!”
This time, he gets prodded by a woman with deep dimples, named Allison. She is nice enough, but not quite as easy to talk to as Kira. He might be a little biased though.
“This is the whole outfit?” He's not proud of the way his voice squeaks, but he's got more pressing matters going on.
After telling him to strip down to his undershirt and eyeing him up, Allison had pushed him into a changing room with a small bundle of fabric. Now, he's staring down at a pair tiny, black briefs and nothing else.
“Here.” Allison shoves something else over the door. “Put the underwear and jeans on. Lose the t-shirt, but keep the button-up.”
Okay, this isn't as bad as he feared. Howl is erotica, but it's tasteful and not every set of photos is buck ass naked. Once he's followed Allison's directions, he stares at himself in the full length mirror of the tiny dressing cubicle. He looks like himself. The jeans are tight, but not any more than some he has at home. With the jeans on, he can't even see the briefs that replaced the boxers he prefers. The only slightly unusual thing about his outfit is the fact that he left the dress shirt unbuttoned over his bare chest.
Stiles flexes his abdomen, thankful that he kept up his light exercise routine after high school. He's been eating better too, mostly thanks to Scott who buys the bulk of the groceries for their apartment. He's thin, but not skin and bones, and he's got some muscle definition. He's not worried about that part.
He tries being sultry in the mirror. Models—especially ones for this kind of magazine—are supposed to be sexy. Stiles? Stiles is pretty sure he can't pull that off, not on purpose. Every expression he makes in the mirror looks strained and/or awkward as fuck.
“They need you.” Allison raps her knuckles on the door, jolting Stiles out of his crisis of confidence.
He straightens out his shirt and barely catches himself in time when he goes to flatten his hair. Kira might get mad at him if he screws that up. Just before he opens the door, he gives himself a stern look and mouths, be sexy, to himself.
Boyd and Laura are waiting for him after Allison sends him on his way. It takes a lot of willpower not to pull his shirt closed when he meets them in the studio. Laura still looks skeptical, but when she looks him over, she doesn't tell him he's fired.
“Okay, you might work.” Laura concedes, features relaxing a bit. “Thank you for doing this.”
“First thing,” Boyd starts talking before Stiles can accept Laura's tepid gratitude. “Braeden is going to take some shots of you alone so you can get comfortable in front of the camera. After that, Peter will join you.”
Stiles swallows. He doesn't know why he'd assumed this photoshoot would be solo. The magazine rarely ever does single model spreads, unless it is a really popular model. Stiles hides his surprise by nodding and keeping his nervous laugh to himself.
“That was quick,” an older man appears next to Boyd. He is close to Stiles’ height and unfairly attractive, with thick shoulders, nicely trimmed goatee, and piercing blue eyes. The man’s smile is predatory when he rakes his gaze over Stiles. “Well, I could just eat you up.”
Laura huffs in annoyance. “Peter, don't scare him. He's Lydia's assistant, and doing us a favor.” She turns back to Stiles, squeezing his arm. “I'm going back to my office because I can't be here right now.” She grimaces, then leaves.
Peter leans towards Stiles, grinning evilly. “She's my niece.”
“Sometimes doing business with family isn't a great idea.” Boyd rolls his eyes. “Come on, then, Stiles. We're trying to stay on schedule.” He glares at Peter. “Go get some coffee or something. I will come find you when we're ready for you.”
“I’ll have you all to myself soon, anyway.” He winks at Stiles before sauntering back away.